Did you know Jeffrey R. Holland got his 2nd Master's Degree and PhD at Yale?
I sure didn't.
Even though I recently heard his now "famous" journey!
So it took me a while to understand why he decided to come to our ward to speak to the single and student members at Yale. Of course I never uttered a word of complaint! If one is allowed to have favorite apostles, my vote would definitely be in his direction. And I know I'm not alone in that sentiment.
But last Sunday came, and so did Elder Holland with his beautiful and loving words. I figured that there are many people who are in similar situations as me (young and in need of counsel) so the least I could do is share my notes of what he said with you. It touched all of us who were there deeply at different moments and on very personal levels. He has a great way of relating to individuals. So I hope that his words can help you too.
Clearly I will not be reproducing his talk word for word. I will try to get as close to his wording as possible, but remember that these may not be direct quotes. Anything that is a direct quote (or as close as I could get it) is in quotation marks. I tried to take detailed notes, but what I wrote down may be emphasized by my own personal interpretation. In any case, I hope the spirit will touch you too.
Notes from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk in the New Haven YSA Branch - Sunday March 18th, 2012
Sis. Patricia Holland: Elder Holland introduced his wife Patricia and gave her a few minutes to express her gratitude. She wanted to express her gratitude to her Father in Heaven for the years they spent at Yale in New Haven. She feels they received a spiritual birth while they were here. She didn't know back then what she was obtained, but she is grateful for it. She feels that she was forced to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit which gave her a sure testimony that Christ lives.
Elder Holland (EH): These moments in your life are "watershed" moments: you're never quite the same again. While EH and his wife were here at Yale, they only had one car. There were mornings there 5 year old would pray that the car would start. Their children still remember saying those prayers to this day. Those are irreplaceable memories. One thing is clear to them: they did not come to Yale for an education. That's not why he came and that's no why we (the current members) are here. They came and we came here for our faith. We came to find faith, to reinforce faith, to exercise faith, and to get an education in church government. Church service demands had them going flat. Going to Yale had nothing to do with a terrific degree (although that certainly helped with many future opportunities). It had everything to do with a congregation. Miracles happen here. EH and his wife are here to cheer us on. He wants us to know "It's all true. God Lives. If you do this right you will be prepared for marriage... If you do this right, you will get the whole package."
EH refers to 3 Nephi 17. In this chapter, it is the close of the first day that the Savior has been with the Nephites. He is telling them to go into their homes and ponder. He wants them to understand and prepare. The Savior has a couple of things to do while they are pondering. 1st He has to go to His Father. 2nd He has to go to other tribes or the lost 10 tribes of Isreal. "That's quite a bit to do in one night!" But as the Savior casts his eyes on the multitude, He sees that they are in tears and decides to tarry a little longer. The crowd was too courteous to say anything, but He perceived their desires anyway. Even with all of the demands on Deity and seeing the challenges of being God, we see that what really comes through is compassion. "Mercy always trumps justice - if we want it to." He knew the Father would understand and the 10 tribes could wait, so the Savior stayed for a couple hours more. It was the lame that captured His attention and claimed His time. "I want you to believe that God knows your circumstance." He knows our heartaches and our struggles. "All God is asking is WANT IT." Want the things that matter. If you struggle, join the club! It happens now, in time, and out of His mercy and love. We benefit from mercy and love. But "you have to want it a lot and want it with tears... If you want it badly enough, long enough, and faithfully enough, you can have it" The irony is that in the bad times, people are tempted to jump ship - especially when they need God's help the most. When the storm is at high sea "Stay in the boat!" Do not bail out even though that is the temptation. Do not do that. Want it as much as the Nephites wanted it. God will heal you. He can do this. We have no control of when. He keeps His hand on the stop watch. It seems He has reserved that one thing to Himself. It can be Job-like if we have to, but the crisis of the moment will pass.
EH now refers to his favorite scripture. "Today it is my favorite scripture. Do not press me tomorrow... but it is today." Mark 4:37-41.(Parts of scripture in brackets with EH's thoughts). [And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow:] Part of the reason the Savior came to the earth was to show the world what it's like to be God. He was tired. EH was glad that Mark noted, as only Mark would, that someone provided a pillow. [...and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?] Even with all of their extensive knowledge and years of training as ship-men, they were scared. This must have been quite the storm. There are times when we will be scared and we need His help, even though we may be "experts." [And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace, be still.] You see? "Everyone gets healed." The Savior rebuked the seas, but He was not through rebuking. These men had to grow up very fast, and He understood that. [...Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?] Did you really think this ship was going down with Me on it? Those are EH words, but he is sure that is what the Savior was thinking. Why are we so fearful? One thing is for sure, more faith doesn't always mean more knowledge. A lot of things will com, but "our first call is to walk by faith. Just be believing. Don't be afraid. Forever have faith... One day you will stand at this pulpit and be able to say that it's all true."
We have a great obligation. A great thing is required for the grace of God. We must have more faith. When Christ died, there was a lot of dismay and confusion. According to Peter, there were 120 people left after the Crucifiction. Or at least that is how many people came to the meeting held by Peter. What Christ taught was hard doctrine. People were unprepared. He kept saying what was going to happen, but they didn't get it. [Now refer to John Ch. 21] So at this last meeting, Peter (in effect) says, 'Well, it was a great three years. Let's go fishing." He had no idea what else to do. EH is sure he was doing his best, but Peter really had no idea of what to do. So he went fishing. In the morning there was a figure on the shore, but they didn't know who he was. When they didn't have any success fishing, the figure called out 'Try the right side of the boat.' Now this sounded a little fishy to them because that was they same thing they heard when they were first called 3 years ago. So they tried the right side of the boat, and sure enough, their nets burst as the fish came reeling in. Then John said, 'It's Him.' And loving, impetuous Peter, jumped in. EH: "Not a good analogy to make when I just told you to stay in the Boat. But, Hey Peter, if the shoe fits, wear it!" EH finds it sweet and loving that the Savior has food prepared for them when they come in. He knows they haven't had success and He knows they must be hungry. Now EH wants us to focus on this moment. [So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?] Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than the fish and the bread. Peter easily answers yes and thinks he passed the test. So they chat and Jesus asks him a second time. 'Lovest thou me?' Peter, a little hesitant this time, toe in the ground answers, 'thou knowest that I love thee.' So they talk some more. Then a third time, "And Peter is a little sensitive about threes..." Jesus asks him, 'Do you love me?' This time Peter is worried and it takes all the courage he has to answer, 'Yes I do. I do love you!' Then Jesus firmly answers (in EH's words), "Then FEED MY SHEEP . This is not over. You are in this forever. You are in this until it's over. YOU CAN NEVER GO BACK."
"Before we felt what we felt or saw what we saw, whether we liked it or not, it changed us forever." Jesus is telling Peter that if he loves Him, Peter will forget the nets and devote his life to bringing the gospel to the earth. It was then that Peter's learning curve shot straight up. Up until that time, Peter didn't get it, but after that moment, he understood. From that time on, he was a witness and an apostle of the Lord. From there he would be crucified upside down so as to never appear to be equal to the Savior. But he understood his role.
EH ends on this point. "It's not over until it's over. We are supposed to help." In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
My personal thoughts: This talk touched me in many, many ways, some of which are too personal to share. But one thing that I do want to share with you is that it really helped solidify my testimony of our Savior. I know that I have a call to testify of Him. I know that I am supposed to help spread this gospel on the earth and help lift people to their true potentials. I know that reaching our highest and most divine goals is impossible without our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. I am grateful that we have such powerful witnesses oh Him on the earth today. The Prophet and Apostles are here to lead and guide us and I am so grateful for their testimonies. I know that what Elder Holland said is absolutely true, and I invite everyone to read the notes and scriptures he provided. Pray about them and ponder them. They can deeply enrich your life.
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I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.